How to Steer Clear of Controlling Relationships

Although it may come as a surprise, the fact is controlling relationships are far more common than most people realize. Controlling relationships are mostly a by-product of people who have had the unfortunate experience of being reared in homes that were highly unstable and/or one or both of the parents was quite controlling. Like actors in a play, in most controlling relationships there are two roles being played out, the controller and the controlled.

The person who is trying to do the controlling is almost always trying to compensate for the "out of control" nature of the environment they grew up in. Internal fears of life spiraling out of control plague people with regular control problems. Their context for life was set in childhood and they often continue living out of that paradigm even though it's no longer relevant.

The unstable home environment could have been a result of an alcoholic parent(s), an absent workaholic parent(s), the breakdown of the marriage, or some form of physical or emotional abuse. If a parent withholds love and affection as a means of keeping the child under their thumb, this destructive behaviour can carry over into adult relationships and cause a lot of problems.

It's because of one or a combination of the following reasons that a person decides to date or marry a controller.

1. This is what they grew up with and it's what they're accustomed to. So even though it's not enjoyable, it is strangely comfortable, being controlled that is.
2. They are attempting to change the controller, to reform them. This is often done unknowingly. The unconscious intention is to try and repair a disappointing relationship they had with their parent(s).
3. Being in a relationship with a controller makes them look good, because when they measure their own behaviour against the controller's, they look like their doing a pretty good job of running their life, even though they're probably not.
4. As times life seems easier while in a relationship with a controller because the controller makes most if not all the decisions for both people. It gives them someone to blame when things don't work out right because... they didn't make the decision?

There are a few things to consider if you are looking to steer clear of a controlling relationship.

1. If being controlled is what you are used to, what you grew up with, then it's vital to realize that "you are not responsible for the environment you grew up in." In dysfunctional homes, the children tend to take responsibility for the parent's problematic behaviours. In controlling homes it's common for the parent(s) to blame the child as a means of off loading responsibility and thus paralyzing the child. In order to drive it deep into your subconcious mind, I suggest you repeat that phrase over and over. "The environment you grew up in was not your responsibility, not your doing." As importantly, "you are 100% response-able, able to respond, to your life as an adult." You can learn the skills and run your life well without the need to have a controlling person manipulating you.

2. If it's your intention to try and reform a controller....please stop. There is no action better at creating insanity in a person than trying to control something you have no control over. The only thing you and I have control over is ourselves. If we will spend our time working on our own hang ups and shortcomings, we will gain increased feelings of control over our lives. Efforts to correct a controlling person are really only futile attempts to control them.

3. As an attempt to cover up your lack of personal initiative, don't hide behind a controlling person's unhealthy actions to make yourself look good. Focus on finding reasons to live that bring happiness to you and others. Take some time to research what your life purpose might be. Why are you here? We've most likely never met, you and I, yet I am quite sure you have abilities and gifts that can be used to make the world a better place to live.

4. Learn how to make decisions for yourself. Being in a relationship with a controlling person can be pretty terrific because they are more than happy to make most if not all the decisions. That seems to make things easy, except that you aren't developing the habit of making good decisions. This step is primarily about your will and rarely about skill. "But I don't know how!" you protest. You will learn. Bit by bit, day by day. The process of learning to make better choices is the same as learning any new skill, it gets better and better with more practice. Practice does not make perfect, but it sure makes life a lot more pleasant!

Chris Keenan is the founder of Relationship Sharing. They help people who like to share and learn about relationships, to do so in small groups settings via telephone conferencing. If you found this article on "How to Break Free from Controlling Relationships" helpful, then go to for hundreds of free relationship articles and try the "relationship sharing" service for free!

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God didn't put you with an abusive mate. Your flesh did.

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